Ranked first in Division III preseason power rankings, the Pomona-Pitzer women’s water polo team has proven to be impressive competition against top-notch competitors.
They kicked off their season late last month with four non-conference games against three DI water polo programs and one DII water polo program. After pulling away with a 9-7 upset victory over Biola University Jan. 23, head coach Alex Rodriguez expressed content with the outcomes.
“I generally schedule a pretty challenging first few games because I don’t think you can get better playing teams that aren’t as good as you,” Rodriguez said. “I thought we played well and I think we came out with good energy, though I’m a little worried that we don’t have that killer instinct that I want them to have.”
Boasting a rotation 22 players deep, Rodriguez noted the team’s strength in numbers as one of their biggest assets heading into the season.
“It’s actually been a struggle to decide playing time, because we have so many girls who are capable of helping us win games,” Rodriguez said. “This is also by far one of the most athletic women’s teams I’ve led; I have a lot of girls who can shoot the ball, and this team is really tall compared to what teams I’ve had in the past.”
Co-captains Lucie Abele PO ’22 and Allison Wu PO ’22 cited the team’s chemistry, culture and work ethic as additional strengths.
“As captains, Allison and I have really tried to foster a healthy and energetic environment, and I think our team has done an incredible job with that,” Abele said. “The girls in our team are always super eager to get into the pool and work hard, [which is] really encouraging and exciting for Allison and I to see.”
Outside of the pool, the team has had beach days and team dinners together, building camaraderie by frequently supporting other teams on campus. The captains also check in often with each player and have them write out their fears and goals for the season, collectively addressing any personal issues one may have.
As for areas of improvement in the pool, the team emphasizes focusing on conditioning and individual technical skills. Moreover, with many still acclimating to the program, Abele mentioned how the “different team dynamic” required extra adjustments.
“In previous years we used to have a small team, but now we have a bunch of players that we can rely on,” Abele said. “Plus, because of COVID-19, the majority of our girls are new to the program, so we’re still learning how to play with all these new people with their unique skills and talents.”
In regards to the COVID-19, health protocols have become stricter. If a player is contact traced, they have to quarantine for 10 days and can’t enter the pool at all; if they get infected with COVID-19, they have to completely self-isolate for five days.
“We are masking in the locker rooms, we’ve limited in person activities and we watch film and scout other teams over Zoom,” Wu said. “It’s definitely frustrating because we want to live a full college experience, but given the situation, we are all prioritizing water polo and having a successful season.”
Despite minor setbacks, the team has high hopes and confidence for this season.
“Simply put, our main goals are to win SCIAC and the NCAA DIII Championship — we saw the men’s team do it in their season, and we want to do it in ours,” Abele said. “We also want to keep supporting our teammates throughout the entire season, showing everybody our all and constantly working on personal improvement and team achievement.”
The P-P women’s water polo team will next hit the road to face the University of Texas at Austin and Brown University in a double-header in the Bruno Tournament tomorrow afternoon.